The Summer of my Content

It’s been close to three months since I quit working and I feel really good about the successes I’ve achieved this summer. If these accomplishments are any indication of what the rest of my years will be like, then I can look forward to a very fulfilled and satisfied life.

I watched the first four seasons of Scandal in a matter of weeks. We can look at this one of two ways:

  1. I am able to focus to meet my goal. I am that dedicated; or
  2. I  could have watched all of it in one day, but I didn’t. I am that disciplined.

Either way I come out looking good.

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I scored tickets to LIVE with Kelly and Michael for September. (This maybe isn’t such an accomplishment as it was much easier than scoring tickets for the Tonight Show.)

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I baked one day.

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I read a book. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. I read it for book club and enjoyed it for the most part. It ended kind of abruptly, but it wasn’t a waste of my time. (I’m really good at book reviews, too.)

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I have been able to keep up with the laundry. Mostly.

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I hung out with Katie until she left for school yesterday. This included watching the last season of How I Met Your Mother with an impressive determination so we could both move on.

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I went out to lunch. A lot.

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I started a website – Grace & Such. It will be launching next Tuesday, September 1st. The concept is something that I’ve had on my heart for a long time and I’ve been working on it since January so I’m super excited that it’s finally about to be real. And maybe a little nervous about it, too. I’ll tell you more about it on the 1st, but here’s a little clue.

FB Cover

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See what I mean? It’s been a productive and contented summer. Or something like that.

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Myrtle Beach Adventures

I made it to Myrtle Beach and back in one piece. It was a quick trip, but I loved every minute of it. I even enjoyed the drive there and back. Mostly, anyway.

There is, no doubt, much more to Myrtle Beach than I saw, but what I did see was very commercialized. It was like Branson by the beach. Which is a lot of fun for young families and golfers, but I don’t know that it’s my kind of vacation place. I like slow paced, farmers’ markets, toes in the sand, an antique store or two, relax and read types of vacations. Still, my Katie was in Myrtle so it was the only place I wanted to be.

When I got settled into my room Monday night she came to see me for a couple of hours. Tuesday I did some of my own touristy stuff. Precious in hand, I set out to get some good photographs. What I got instead was some delicious sweet tea from McAlister’s (a foodie staple of the south) and a trip to Barnes and Noble. Not exactly what I had planned, but I wasn’t complaining.

I picked Katie up from her camp around 4-ish or so and we ran an errand or two before ending up at Joe’s Crab Shack at Barefoot Landing. This is where I found out she had never eaten crab before, other than in a crab cake or crab dip. Once I got over the shock of this parenting fail, we set about remedying the poor raising of her.  By the time we finished all those crab legs we were both a glorious mess of melted butter and crab juice. (It didn’t seem so horrible at the time, but reading crab juice kind of makes me shudder.)

After we got crabs (hehe – I said “got crabs”) we strolled around the landing, perusing the interesting shops and taking pictures of all the silly signs, t-shirts, etc. We made a couple small purchases and then landed at Kohr’s Family Ice Cream. It was the perfect ending to our outing.

We went back to the hotel, then, and got super comfy in our beds and watched Shark Week. Because we always seem to be at the beach when it’s Shark Week and what else should one watch? Especially when there has already been several shark attacks in the approximate vicinity. We also snacked a little. On Mega-Stuffed Oreos. They were on sale at the CVS we stopped at for bottled water and a few other things and this was our vacation and they looked so yummy and stop judging me.

Wednesday morning was super lazy and delightful. I got up and ensconced myself in the perfect reading chair while Katie slept on. I started a new book – The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – for August book club. A book club I haven’t made it to yet, but August is a new month and I WILL FINALLY BE VICTORIOUS! By the time Katie got up and around it was too late for the free breakfast downstairs, which was perfectly fine with me. There was a coffee pot in the room and we still had Mega-Stuffed Oreos. What more could a girl with a caffeine addiction and a serious sweet tooth want? (I’ll talk about how I’m trying to get healthy again later. MUCH later. So don’t hold your breath for that post, m’kay?)

It was time for lunch by the time we got out of the hotel so we went to McAlister’s. I realize there were about a bajillion other places for us to go, but I really hadn’t satisfied my McAlister’s need and Katie was down with the choice, so there you have it. After lunch we headed to Broadway at the Beach. Our plan had been to spend the day there and then eat at the Hard Rock Cafe because eating at every single Hard Rock Cafe there ever was is a crazy and unspoken goal of mine. Well, now it’s spoken. Or written, which is even worse because you can deny the spoken word, but it’s hard to deny something that’s been written down. So now you know. But unless you’re independently wealthy it’s an impossible goal and one I think I’ve finally given up on. Unless I can someday write several NYT best sellers. Then I may revisit this goal.

Anyhoo, we walked and browsed and window shopped and took more pictures of ridiculous things that made us laugh and walked some more. Which makes me feel okay about my breakfast choice of that morning because it was pretty much walked and/or sweated off by the time we finished at Broadway. Oh. We also stopped in at Ben & Jerry’s for a kid sized cup of ice cream. Tonight Dough, how I love thee.

We had seen everything there was to see so we decided to forego the Hard Rock and head back to the hotel. More Shark Week to watch, more reading and a short nap for the girl. She wanted Mexican for dinner and we went to a gloriously authentic hole in the wall and it was delicious! And what trip would be complete without at least one run to Wal-Mart? We bought a few movie bundles in the discount bin and then ended our day back at the hotel.

Thursday morning Katie got up early and had to be back to camp by 7:45 or so. I got ready, went downstairs for a quick and free breakfast and then hit the road. I wanted to bypass DC because I knew I would head into the area right around rush hour so I took an alternative route. I didn’t think about the fact it would be a lot of highway with stop lights and such. OY! It took me forever to get home. But what a beautiful drive it was! I drove the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel – Bridge and it was fascinating. A little eerie, but very interesting.

On the way down I had listened to a book on tape – The Anatomist’s Apprentice by Tessa Harris. It was entertaining, but I don’t know that I would necessarily recommend it. On the way home, however, I listened to her second book in the series – The Dead Shall Not Rest – and found it to be much more interesting because it concerned real life people from 1780’s London. When I arrived home I had to do my own research on a couple of the characters and I liked how she wove the story around them. I’m sure I’ll eventually read the third in the series to see if she continues to get better or if book two was just a fluke.

It took me a little over 11 hours to get home so it was a lonnnnng day. My drive ended with a hellacious thunder storm with so much lightening it was blinding and so much rain it was hard to see more than about 10 feet ahead. But made it home I did. And I really enjoyed my own bed that night.

All in all, it was a great mini-trip and I loved hanging out with the girl. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!

Reading and Such

I’ve read two stellar books in the last week and I just had to share! Funny enough, both carry the theme of unimaginably oppressed women, however, they are nothing alike.

The first book I read was “Pope Joan” by Donna Woolfolk Cross and was fascinating. Here’s a synopsis:

For a thousand years, her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die–Pope Joan, a controversial figure of historical record who, disguised as a man, rose to rule Christianity in the 9th century as the first and only woman to sit on the throne of St. Peter. In this riveting novel, Donna Woolfolk Cross paints a sweeping portrait of a heroine whose strength of vision led her to defy the social restrictions of her day.

Brilliant and talented, young Joan rebels against medieval laws forbidding women to learn. When her older brother is brutally killed during a Viking attack, Joan takes up his identity and enters the monastery of Fulda, where she is initiated into the brotherhood in his place. As Brother John Anglicus, Joan distinguishes herself as a great scholar and healer. Eventually she is drawn to Rome, where she becomes enmeshed in a dangerous web of love, passion, and politics. Triumphing over appalling odds, she finally attains the highest throne in Christendom, wielding a power greater than any woman before or since.

But such power always comes at a price…

Pope Joan is a sweeping historical drama set against the turbulent events of the 9th century — the Saracen sack of St. Peter’s, the famous fire in the Borgo that destroyed over three-quarters of the Vatican, the Battle of Fontenoy, arguably the bloodiest and most terrible of medieval conflicts. This masterwork of suspense and passion brings the Dark Ages to life in all their brutal splendor and shares the dramatic story of an unforgettable woman who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.

They made a movie of it in 2009 and yesterday after church I decided to see if I could find it on On Demand. Guess what! I did!! In fact, it was getting ready to come on so I hit record. I thought it was kind of funny that they were showing it twice, back to back.

Later in the day Todd and I decided to watch it. The movie did a great job of sticking close to the book. I mean, there were some changes here and there, but overall it was very good. Except…

… it was actually a two part movie and I only taped the first half. NOOOooo… So we checked the menu again and found out it will be shown again in March. IN MARCH! Poor Todd. At least I know how it ends. But he has to wait two more weeks to find out.

The second book I read this past week was A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. And when I say “this past week” what I really mean is today. I started it this morning. I finished it this afternoon. It was a glorious Monday holiday. The synopsis:

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years—from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to the post-Taliban rebuilding—that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives—the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness—are inextricable from the history playing out around them.

Propelled by the same storytelling instinct that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once a remarkable chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving account of family and friendship. It is a striking, heart-wrenching novel of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love—a stunning accomplishment.

I find it very interesting that these two books, set over a thousand years apart and in such different cultures, were remarkably similar. Women regarded as worthless, especially if they could not conceive a son. Women considered unnatural and heretical if they could think for themselves. Religion twisted and used as ammunition against the fairer sex. Both books raised my ire at the injustice of it all and tugged at my heartstrings for these poor victims of their culture and era.

I think I need a fluffy, mindless romance now…

Five On Friday – September 23, 2011

I’ve only listed five things, but I’m very wordy today. If you plan on staying with me until the end here, you might want to grab a cup of tea and settle in.

1.     Katie is currently singing “On My Own” for voice lessons right now. Her dream is to play Eponine in the high school production of Les Miserables so she’s thrilled to have this song. Also, it’s one of my favorite songs from the play and as I listened to her practice last night I put my book down, closed my eyes and nearly wept with the beauty of it.

Let’s dissect this paragraph, shall we?

        a)     Katie isn’t necessarily interested in musical theater as a career or anything like that. Her greatest aspiration is to do a high school play. Is it just me, or does that strike anyone else a little funny? Not as in weird funny, but giggly funny. It’s just me, isn’t it?

        b)     Katie’s high school has no plans to produce Les Mis as far as we know. And yet, her goal is to play Eponine when her high school does. She’s a junior and she only has this and next year to make her dream a reality. Start crossing your fingers now.

        c)     Katie is sick. Her tonsils and adenoids are swollen and she sounds like someone is choking her. You can imagine how her singing is at the moment. And yet I thought her gargley, strangled voice was beautiful. Is that a mom’s bias or what?

2.     I finished reading “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” the other night. I loved the series. As a warning to those of you who are looking for something good to read, it’s full of disturbing violence and macabre crimes. That said, it’s a great detective series that doesn’t always go the way you think it should.

Obviously I am in need of something new to read so today I purchased a new book for my Kindle – Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman. The blurb I read said, “Steel Magnolias meets The Help in this Southern debut novel sparkling with humor, heart, and feminine wisdom.” How could I resist?

3.     Last night Katie and I looked at local farm houses for sale on-line. We fell in love with a few of them, but the one we loved the most was built in 1803. It was also the most expensive at just a little over 3 million. It had a charming stone outbuilding that matched the large barn. At first I thought the outbuilding would be perfect for my writing/photography studio, but then I realized it would be even more perfect for Todd’s guitar repair business. It was climate controlled so the guitars would be in a good environment and had a lot of natural light and was roomy enough for his purposes.

The barn itself was probably worth a small fortune. It didn’t look like any livestock housing I’d ever seen. It had a wood floor and a high ceiling with beautiful beams and natural lighting, and it was obvious they used it for entertaining. In Katie’s words, “That will be perfect for my wedding.” Yes, indeed. And just think of all the money we’ll save in renting a hall.

The back of the farmhouse had a long covered brick porch and overlooked a pretty pond and rolling hills – also conducive to an outdoor wedding, as Katie pointed out. The house itself was a little over 9,000 square feet and had 6 bedrooms, 6 full baths, a media room the like of which I’ve never seen, fireplaces in all the rooms (though I didn’t see one in the media room), a beautiful and sunny and humongous gourmet kitchen and very large rooms, which I found interested considering the date it was built.

As we scrolled through all 28 of the pictures I realized I would need a whole lot more than $3,000,000.  Some of the rooms, though so utterly charming with their vintage architecture and beautiful moldings, left me at a complete loss as to how to decorate. I realized I would need to bring in the big guns – Candace Olsen or Vern Yip or some such HGTV designer.

I would also need a staff of housecleaners.

4.     We have a 30 foot pull behind trailer that hasn’t been out of storage for at least a year and a half. That’s very sad because this family has spent some of our best trips – from short weekends to long vacations – in that RV. It is really hard to find even a weekend when nobody has to work or has any other obligations and we just kind of stopped trying to find the time to go camping. I finally convinced Todd it was time to get it inspected and looked over so we could start using it again. Early next week he will be picking it up from the RV service center and on Thursday we’re headed down to spend a long weekend with Taylor. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am on so many levels, not the least of which is more fodder for the blog.

5.     I stayed up until 12:30 this morning writing. I hadn’t even planned to write. It just sort of happened and it was exhilarating. I haven’t felt that kind of need to write for a very long time. It seemed almost like it was someone else writing. The events were mine and the emotions were mine, but it just poured out and it was a beautiful thing. I wrote the entire first chapter of my book. You know. The one I’ve been working on for the past five+ years?

Part of the breakthrough was a change in my thinking. When I started to write after the year from hell it was just for me. Then people began to tell me I needed to write a book and eventually I started looking at this process as a means to get published. Which, in turn, made me start thinking about my angle. There are hundreds of personal accounts of breast cancer on the shelves; what would make mine different or stand out? What I came up with was bupkis. There’s nothing particularly original about my story. And that added to my writing hang up.

I finally had an epiphany where all this is concerned. I HAVE to write this book for me, for Todd, for Taylor and for Katie. I don’t feel like I have a choice in the matter. I don’t have to write it for anyone else, though. And that thought was so very liberating. When you’re learning how to write for publication you learn the book must start with a hook. Something catchy to make the reader want to keep reading. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t come up with anything better than, “2005 started out as a great year.” How does that grab ya?? It doesn’t. (Though I daresay, “Call me Ishmael” isn’t so catchy, either, and look at what that started.)

So once I brushed off all the technicalities of writing a book – start with a hook, have a unique angle, etc., I was able to just sit down and write.

Another thing I was struggling with was the very beginning. I kept trying to start my story with my diagnosis. But that’s not really where my story began and I’ve always said that. So why in the world would I start writing my story there? Once I realized I needed to start nearly two months earlier it flowed.

Also I don’t think it had been the right time for me to write this story. As long as it had been, I don’t think I was in the right place to come face to face with some of those demons again. But there was a fear that if I waited too long I would become too subjective and the emotion wouldn’t be there to aid in my writing. Anybody who writes will tell you some of the best writing comes when you’re in a place of complete angst. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s true.

And lastly, I believe that it was God’s time for me to start. It’s so easy now to look back six years and see where God was and how He was working in all the mess. And as I wrote about my life leading up to the diagnosis with the prospective move to Pennsylvania and everything that meant, I couldn’t help but smile and praise God for what He did for us, even if I wasn’t completely aware at the time.

Now all of this may seem silly or read like mumbo jumbo to some of you. And that’s okay. But for others of you, you totally get this.

And that is my five on this rainy Friday in September. I’m off to do a little housekeeping and then start working on Chapter 2.

Adieu.

Gluten Tag, Mein Freunds

I’m thinking of going gluten-free. Or at least mostly gluten-free. Or maybe I’ll start with little baby steps and go gluten-free for breakfast. There’s no gluten in coffee, right??

Last November I had a bout with diverticulitis and it was not pleasant. I’ve also had other issues throughout my GI tract and I’m thinking it might be a gluten sensitivity. Any feedback on the subject would be greatly appreciated.

As a favor to my coworkers I opted to stay home today. I’m selfless that way. Besides, I had brought work home to do last night, but it never got done. Unfortunately I didn’t get it finished today, either. Why? Because I’m entrenched in the third “Girl” book – The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. What a series! I would love nothing better than to just turn off this computer and read until I finish, wee hours of the morning or whenever. But I’m not going to do that. Stupid conscience.

 

 

Presidents’ Day And Other Happenings

Happy Presidents’ Day – especially those of you who get the day off of school or work. Personally I’d rather be celebrating spring. A warm, but not hot, sunny day with the windows open and the smell of fragrant flowers wafting through a very clean and dust free house (it’s my fantasy, isn’t it?). While I’m at it, on this very lovely day I would like to be boxing up clothes that are now much to large for me and putting away my new, significantly smaller clothes that fit just right and proclaim a chic, yet casual sense of style…

Wow. That was a great happy place. I’ll have to remember to go there more often!

There is still snow everywhere. Mostly still pretty snow, except for on the sides of the roads. A good deal of that snow is rather dirty. And the snow on our deck? Sookie has an issue with getting off the deck with all the snow in the yard so she’s been using the snow on the deck AS HER RESTROOM! “Don’t eat yellow snow” has taken on a whole new meaning. Not to mention the poopcicles out there. Just… yuck. The silver lining? I’ll get back to you.

And guess what! They’re calling for more snow tonight and tomorrow night. At one time some meteorologists were saying we could get another 10 inches. Thankfully that thought is now passe and they’re talking about 2 to 4 inches where we live. The silver lining? Because it’s supposed to snow tonight and into the morning hours I think school is going to be delayed by 2 hours. Not such a bad thing considering we’ve all had the last six mornings to sleep in late. We could use a 2 hour delay to ease into getting up early again.

While I’m on a roll here, I think I’ll just keep up the slightly negative tone of this post.

Todd and I are sick. Late Friday afternoon he started complaining about stomach cramps and I just figured he was being some kind of a baby (because I lack compassion. It’s true.) Friday night, however, as Katie and I were watching The Princess Bride (as opposed to the opening ceremonies – don’t judge me. I’m still a proud American) my tummy started doing the same thing. Sure enough. We both ended up with some weird kind of stomach bug. There has been no throwing up, but a lot of wishing there was some throwing up just to feel better. And there’s been quite a bit of, um, “running” to the bathroom, if you catch my drift. I was actually going to go into work this morning, but my stomach still hurts and I can’t eat much of anything without feeling horrible. Weird. The silver lining? I’m starting my weight loss program today! And heaven forbid the kids get it and miss school – from my fingers to God’s eyes.

My sister, Terri, lives in Fort Worth. They, too, had snow. Quite a bit for that region, in fact. She had a great time playing in the snow with her grandson, Anthony. They had snowball fights and built a snowman. Lots of fun for an awesome grandma. But she slipped and fell Friday night on her driveway, breaking her leg at the ankle and requiring an ambulance ride to the hospital. They set it and put a splint on it, but when the swelling goes down she’ll require surgery. The silver lining? They prescribed her some killer goofers!

I’ve been reading An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon for the last couple of months. It’s a little over 800 pages and I’m having a fairly difficult time with it. If you don’t know anything about this book I’ll tell you. It’s book number 7 in the Outlander series. The first several books of the series are amazingly good and the real talent DG has is for building such complex characters that you end up feeling as though they’re good friends. So you keep reading the series, even though the books start getting a little bogged down. I’m finding this current read a little bit like a treasure hunt. There’s a lot of sand to dig though, but I keep coming up with little, or big, gems so it makes the work worth it. Living near Philadelphia with all it’s Revolutionary War history makes it interesting, too, because that’s what’s going on in the book. So I’m enjoying it, and yet I’m not. I just want to read the good parts and move on to a much smaller, much more shallow and insipid, much easier book to read! But I can’t until I’ve finished this one. So maybe I should get off the computer and read some more.

Oh wait! I forgot I was supposed to post more pictures of the blizzard. So without further ado, I give you THE GREAT BLIZZARD OF 2010








And how about these pictures of “Meerkat Brady”, taken by Laura. He was looking for his girlfriend through the snow, but couldn’t see over the drifts!


Another Six Months

So I saw the White Russian today. As doctor’s appointments go it was fairly pleasant. My biggest complaint every time I go is that they’re too prompt and I don’t get to read nearly as much in the waiting room as I’d like to. Which was a crying shame today because I’m reading this fabulous book that Laurie Kingston, a Mothers With Cancer friend of mine, wrote: Not Done Yet: Living Through Breast Cancer. She started a blog at the time of her breast cancer diagnosis and the book is a compilation of her posts. I’ll be doing a complete review when I finish, but suffice it to say I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Kind of a weird thing to say considering it’s about her experience with breast cancer, isn’t it? But she’s funny and her way of dealing with things strongly resonates with me. And that’s all you get until I finish, which could have been today if the oncologist’s office was just a little less efficient.

On the way back to the scale I asked the nurse if I could just tell her how much I weighed and if so, I’m 125. She answered with, “So am I. But you’re going to have to stand on the scale anyway.” Then we went in the room for the preliminary vitals and blood work. Because I had lymph nodes removed I can’t have blood pressure or blood draws or anything that could aggravate the lymph system and cause lymphedema in my left arm. When the nurse asked which arm I drew a total blank. For a minute I couldn’t remember which side was okay to use. We both laughed and agreed that was a great thing.

Vitals taken and blood sucked, she handed me a robe and left the room. Which meant I had to disrobe from the waist up. Which meant persons other than myself would be seeing my underarms. D’oh!! Not only are left armed vitals off limits, so is shaving the left underarm. If you’ve been around here for the last couple of years you know I went through three sessions of laser hair removal which seemed to do the trick. Except it didn’t and now I have to go back for a touch up, though I keep forgetting to make the appointment and I hardly ever Veet because it’s so inconvenient and it kind of burns, too. But do you know what I say to sparsely hairy armpits at the doctor’s office? “Whatever.”

The appointment itself was very good and almost great. I think we spent at least half the time discussing college choices for Taylor – my doctor is pushing for Penn State and laments that his girls chose Yale, Harvard and Temple. Not a huge concern for us. But this appointment was supposed to be about me so let’s get back to that.

My blood work was great (surprise, surprise, my white count was on the low side of normal). My vitals were great. My tumor markers were low. Everything was as it should be which is very good. I’ll get a bone density test in January, see the doctor in March and we’ll be that much closer to my 5 years.

The one glitch in the appointment is that I will be on the Arimidex two years longer than originally prescribed. The plan had been post-chemo treatment for five years which for me was two years of Tamoxifen followed by three years of Arimidex. There’s been a new study, however, that says there’s a better success rate when the patient stays on the Arimidex for five whole years regardless of how long she had been on any other post-chemo medication. A little disappointing, but I’m not going to complain about it (at least not at the moment). It’s small beans compared to the grand scheme of things.

Finally I checked out and high tailed it for the Starbuck’s down the street for my venti White Chocolate Mocha with whip to complete my visit. Because a trip to the doctor’s isn’t over until I’m sipping that sweet nectar of life and making yummy sounds. Besides, my oncologist’s office is about 40 minutes away and I needed something for the ride home.

Continuing…

I’m going to see if I can knock out the rest of the holiday saga. Here we go…

* Taylor has continued on with his yearly Christmas tradition of being sick on Christmas. Poor baby.

I am not kidding. Every stinkin’ year he has a head cold or a sinus infection or bronchitis or something. One year we were doing family pictures with a professional photographer and he was miserable. We pumped him up with Tylenol and managed the session in the fever-free, half-way okay window. Another year he sat alone at a little table in the entryway of the in-law’s house which was close to, but not actually at the big table because he was sick and nobody wanted that Christmas gift. This year he laid on the couch in view of the rest of us at the dinner table. It’s so sad. But he takes it in such stride and never complains.

* The food has been phenomenal.

Chicken piccata, homemade tacos, breakfast casserole, hashbrown casserole, donuts, cakes, coffee, bagels, authentic shepherd’s pie – and that’s all I can remember at the moment.

* We’re up to 14 people (counting the twins) in two condos and there’s always something going on. Katie has shown her competitive side which makes me think of a story. Sorry. You’ll have to wait for the story.

There are times when Katie does something that is so me I have to laugh. Playing games is no different. She learned how to play Mexican Train (dominoes) and Triominoes with Aunt Joanne, cousin Stacy and Stacy’s boyfriend, Niall. Since she’s 14 they took it a little easy on her. Until they realized that she learned quickly, plays dirty and takes no prisoners. Kind of like when I was about her age and my parents went out of town, leaving me with my cousins Ron & Barb for the weekend. They taught me how to play Hate Your Neighbor – UNO before there was UNO. I caught on fairly fast and played with a vengeance. Their friend, a priest, came over to play and he kept saying he was going to grab his exorcism kit from the car because I was clearly evil. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (I say while fiendishly rubbing my hands together)

Am I proud that my genteel daughter has a vicious game playing streak? You betcha!!

* The temps have been in the 50’s and everybody thinks it’s freezing, meanwhile the boys in my family are walking around in shorts and t-shirts.

I love the desert. I really do. I forget just how much until I find myself in the Southwest or Palm Springs. One of the things I love is the winter weather. Mild and sunny during the day and crisp and cool at night. Perfect!

* I shall be forever grateful that Taylor brought his computer, otherwise I might be rolled up in the fetal position in the corner shaking uncontrollably. But don’t tell him I said that. I gotta keep it cool around him.

This one needs no explanation.

* Grandpa made a total funny about books. I’ll tell you about it later.

Grandpa noticed Katie’s big book and she told him she reads a lot. He said he’s been reading a lot of books lately, too. On tape.

* People who live in golf resorts don’t look kindly upon golf cart races. Just sayin’.

This was a little misleading as no actual races took place. Taylor wanted to pull a Mario Andretti around the resort, but the cart will only go so fast. He would try to catch up to people, but it never happened.

He did nearly throw me out the windshield by stomping on the break and gave me whiplash by stomping on the accelerator. I didn’t find the humor in either. At all.

* Todd’s back. Just a little teaser. More on that after the holidays.

Some of you may recall Todd used to have a blog called Jenni and Me. He started it on August 24, 2007 and ended it on September 11, 2007. He saw it as his chance to show people a different perspective than mine. Totally unnecessary as evidenced by the very short run. But for some reason he’s felt the need to start it back up. Probably because I don’t talk enough about Sookie. Whatever. As long as he keeps his stories to puppy antics we’ll get along just fine.

Book Review: Belly of the Whale by Linda Merlino

A month or so ago several breast cancer survivors, including myself, were asked to review Belly of the Whale by new author, Linda Merlino. Never one to turn away a free book, I eagerly agreed. Upon reading the book, however, I realized my perspective as a breast cancer survivor may have skewed my opinion.

Hudson Catalina has given up. Having lost both breasts to cancer, she is emotionally and physically exhausted, no longer willing to endure the nausea and crushing weakness that chemotherapy causes. Until the wrecked-by-life young Buddy Baker arrives, bent on murder. Linda Merlino’s harrowing, touching story of despair, abuse, murder and survival takes you on a journey through the darkest places of the human mind and spirit, and in the end leads you back out of “the belly of the whale” enriched by the experience.

The book opens with Hudson Catalina on a stretcher in Whale’s Market the morning after a crazed gunman holds the occupants hostage. The story spans the previous 24 hours and as she lays there unsure as to whether she’s dead or alive she begins to think back on the previous day’s events. Sadly, the day before wasn’t such a good one since she had totally given up hope.

As I read the book I had a hard time identifying with Hudson. Frankly I don’t know anybody who felt that extent of despair while going through treatment for breast cancer. Granted her mother had passed from the disease twenty-some years earlier, but that was twenty-some years earlier. Treatment has come so far since then.
Also, we never know what type of cancer it is, what stage, how aggressive, etc., and that could play a part.

Her one saving grace, in my opinion, is that she does admit to being a bit dramatic. Still, I don’t know of a single mother who would spend any length of time considering the things she does. I found her to be an extremely selfish drama queen and rather annoying. That attitude, however, is what allows her to grow and get a new perspective while at the market.

While not my preferred type of read, Belly of the Whale has redeeming qualities in Hudson Catalina’s change of outlook and the interesting characters she interacts with in the market. It probably wouldn’t be something a current breast cancer patient would be interested in reading – it may hit too close to home or her attitude about her circumstances could be depressing. But it might appeal to readers of suspense.

From Russia With Love

Last night was one of my not so good sleep nights. I blame it on TV and books. Let me explain.

I’m currently reading an epic war-time love story called The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simmons. Here’s the back blurb:

Leningrad 1941: the white nights of summer illuminate a city of fallen grandeur whose beautiful palaces and stately avenues speak of a different age, when Leningrad was known as St Petersburg.

Two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha, share the same bed, living in one room with their brother and parents. It is a hard, impoverished life, yet the Metanovs know many who are not as fortunate as they.

The family routine is shattered on 22 June 1941 when Hitler invades Russia. For the Metanovs, for Leningrad and for Tatiana, life will never be the same again. On the fateful day, Tatiana meets a brash young officer named Alexander.

Tatiana and her family suffer as Hitler’s army advances on Leningrad, and the Russian winter closes in. With bombs falling and the city under siege, Tatiana and Alexander are drawn to each other in an impossible love. It is a love that could tear Tatiana’s family apart, a love that carries a secret that could mean death for anyone who hears it.

Confronted on the one hand by Hitler’s unstoppable war machine, and on the other by a Soviet system determined to crush the human spirit, Tatiana and Alexander are pitted against the very tide of history, at a turning point in the century that made the modern world.

Mesmerizing from the very first page to the final, breathtaking end, The Bronze Horseman brings alive the story of two indomitable, heroic spirits and their great love that triumphs over the devastation of a country at war.

It’s the kind of story that gets into your mind and won’t let go. The characters won’t leave me, I hold my breath as they endure the bombings and the lack of food, I’m fascinated by the culture and I’m enamoured by the beautiful images and horrified by the terrible scenes the pages paint. Lucky for me it’s the first book in a trilogy. Unfortunately, this first paper back is nearly 900 pages.

And to add to the intrigue of the book is the fact that, while the author was born in Russia, she has lived in the US since she was ten. Okay. That’s not the interesting thing. The interesting – and very frustrating – thing is that her books are NOT AVAILABLE IN THE US! What’s up with that? Or if they are, they’re usually very expensive. I was lucky enough to have a friend mail it to me, but this is the kind of book I want to call my very own.

Okay. Enough of that rant. Let’s move on.

*Edited to add – I just ordered all three books from Doubleday Bookclub. They were 20 cents each. Of course, now I’m a member of the Doubleday Bookclub. But is that so bad?*

Katie was sick yesterday so she stayed home. Gilmore Girls was on from noon until nearly 6:00. Lorelai and Rory, Rory and Lorelai, sassy banter, sarcastic wit, All.Day.Long. Not that that’s a bad thing. I’m a fan so it wasn’t a trial or anything.

The problem, however, was that I dreamt about the Gilmore Girls in Russia the entire night. I can’t even tell you any more than that. Just that the Gilmores were in Russia and were speaking with Russian accents. And then I would wake up and try to compose the blog post I was going to write about the Gilmores in Russia.

Why is it the posts I compose while I’m semi-conscious are brilliant, yet when I surface to full awareness the brilliance slips from my grasp and all that’s left is the mundane?